Dior Ad Perpetuates Idea Behind Racial Slur
This past weekend, Johnny Depp manifested himself from obscurity via an insensitive cologne ad for the French fashion brand, Dior. Following a massive backlash over the teaser trailer for the campaign, the company made sure to pull it from its social media platforms and set the footage to private on its YouTube channel.
It’s 2019, and even after receiving assistance and approval from the non-profit organization, Americans for Indian Opportunity, the whole project managed to trip over itself while screaming that it did it’s very best. Many prominent Indigenous voices have come out to dissect what went wrong. One of them is Dr. Adrienne Keene, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University:
So the fact that “Sauvage” is on some “we are the land” BS is not surprising, but as always I find it deeply disturbing when brands force Native people to make the choice between stereotypes and misrepresentation, or utter invisibility.— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@NativeApprops) August 30, 2019
As the conversation over cultural appropriation continues to evolve, Indigenous voices like Dr. Keene’s can serve as a north star:
LaDonna has worked tirelessly for Native folks throughout her career, and done incredible work, and I want to be clear about that. But I feel the whole “adoption” and ensuing relationship with Depp was probs a misstep in the long run.— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@NativeApprops) August 30, 2019
Still, it’s no surprise that the fashion industry has been notoriously guilty of this type of behavior. Nearly a year ago, Dior was amid another scandal, finding itself criticized for appropriating “escaramuzas,” which they said was the inspiration for their Dior Cruise 2019 collection. That campaign featured actress Jennifer Lawrence posing with horses, while dressed in traditional Mexican outfits. Recently, both Gucci and Prada have faced public scorn for utilizing blackface. Clearly, there’s a visible pattern of behavior.
Cultural appropriation and tone-deaf marketing are running rampant within large organizations, leaving many of us to wonder, “Well, who is in the room approving these decisions?” The majority are not. What the Dior debacle has shown us, is that even if they do consult with representatives from marginalized groups, as noted by Dr. Keene, it ultimately comes down to “the choice between stereotypes and misrepresentation, or utter invisibility.”
Misrepresentation versus erasure. That’s all too often the case, even if that means participating in a commercial where the star has questionable ties to the Native community and the project supports the perpetuation of a racial slur. The word “savage” is an insult. One that can even be found in the hallowed words of the U.S. Constitution:
Disregard for the humanity of others is a deeply embedded idea that exists in our popular culture, arts, and politics. It seems that we still have a long way to go. That doesn’t mean that Indigenous people are not speaking up for themselves. In fact, they’ve made it a point to show that they’re taking charge of their own narrative, like with this music video by Supaman featuring Maimouna Youssef, titled “Miracle”:
As time goes on, we look forward to hearing more.